Do you want to help the farmers in Tamil Nadu, after coming across the alarming number of farmer suicides? Then meet a group of people who came together through social media for a common cause of helping the farmers in the state.
On January 26, 2017, more than 170 people formed an organization, ‘Farmer Friendly Initiative’ (FFI) aimed at enriching the lives of farmers by enabling them to continue farming in the most profitable and chemical free manner.
“Of the 170 people, some have been practising farming, some are retired agricultural officers and some are IAS officers. We had sessions with farmers, we spent the month of February understanding the problems of the farmers; we met farmers who use chemicals, and also organic farmers,” said Naveen Subramanium, a member of FFI.
Currently, the team is working with farmers in three villages near Chennai: Irumbedu near Arani, and Gumbli and Edur near Gummidipoondi.
“We had listed about 20 villages near Chennai, but we finalised these three villages because we found that here people were on the verge of quitting farming. The next generation was working in different sectors in Chennai,” Naveen said.
“We met all the youngsters and made them understand that farming is a good business. Now, youngsters are coming ahead to start farming. We have been laying the groundwork, making them understand the soil, how to make it fertile, how to reduce the input cost, etc,” Naveen explained.
FFI has also been calling in experts to help the farmers cultivate in a profitable manner. “Dr Ismail, a soil biologist from The New College and Parthasarathy, a prominent Organic Farmer of Chennai, met about 100 farmers in Tiruvannamalai to answer their questions about farming. We also have local volunteers - one for every ten farmers in each village,” said Naveen.
The group has not only been conducting sessions with farmers, but also helping them sell their yield to customers. “We find customers and then we connect them directly to the farmers. The yield is sold at the cost the farmer asks for,” said Naveen.
Other than this, they have also started the ‘4F campaign - For Farmer, For Family’. In this campaign, people who are interested in farming can support one farmer, and they can consult FFI for expert opinions on different problems regarding soil, fertility, branding or marketing. In total, 60 farmers have registered under this campaign including one from Kerala.
The group has also facilitated meetings between farmers and government officials. While the ‘Jamabandhu’ meetings are supposed to happen every year, they weren’t happening for the last few years, Naveen says. “We organized it, and a tractor full of people attended it and submitted their petitions to the RDO. It is one of the successes of our initiative,” Naveen says.
Water scarcity being one of the major issues for the farmers in the state, FFI has been working with the government in lake and water restoration. “Other than that, the main problem is that the farmers do not know how to use the water efficiently, we are trying them how to use lesser water and cultivate crops like millet which requires lesser water. Moreover, organic farming requires lesser water as the natural fertilisers already contain moisture,” Naveen says.
Asked about the reason for high farmer suicides in the state, Naveen explains: “High input cost and low yield is one of the major problem. The cost of fertilizers and pesticides is very high and another major reason is drought. That is why we are promoting organic farming as it requires lesser input cost and gives more yield.”